I spent the morning with Jeff Shero, talking about his art collection and skipping over some of the places he’s been in the last 50 years. Perhaps you, like myself, think of him as Jeff Nightbyrd , as many of us knew him in the 1970s. As a journalist, activist, publisher, organizer who blazed trails in the mid-sixties, suffice to say a name change probably wasn’t a bad idea. But to hell with politics for a moment, what we talked about most was art, because the Jeff Shero Nightbyrd Collection Auction, Saturday, Dec. 5, showcases a big bunch of Jeff’s collection of poster art and other ephemera from the tumultuous, radical, psychedelic, rock ‘n’ roll sixties, up through the punk rock revolution of the seventies and eighties. For collectors who missed out on Eddie Wilson’s grand auction of Armadillo World Headquarters posters and art last January, this is a chance to score some sought-after items.
The auction is Sat. Dec. 5, at Burley Auction Gallery in New Braunfels, starting at 10:00 AM. Complete details at Burleyauction.com.
If you want to skip all this, go straight to the collection catalog (you don’t have to bid if you just want to look). Austinite baby boomers know that Jeff is one of the people who really put Austin on the map. When he was at the University of Texas in 1964 writing for the Daily Texan, he won
Best Columnist in the Southwest. In 1965, a pivotal year for the movement to halt US involvement in Vietnam, Jeff was elected Vice President of Students for Democratic Society (SDS). Still in the trenches of anti-war activism, in 1967 Jeff was one of the founders of the Austin RAG, one of the most important underground newspapers in the nation. In 1968 Jeff founded RAT Subterranean News in New York.
In 1974 Jeff Nightbyrd and Michael Eakin founded the Austin Sun, which had a good run through 1978. A couple of years later, some of the same writers and editors went on to found a little magazine known as the Austin Chronicle. Some of the people associated with both publications include Louis Black, Nick Barbaro, Margaret Moser, Michael Ventura, and James Big Boy Medlin.
Later, Jeff edited the Los Angeles Free Press, ran the Plains Georgia Monitor during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and was a contributor to the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman.
So, that’s what they mean when they call Jeff Shero Nightbyrd a legend. He’s led a busy life. But, as he told me, “I was lucky to live in a lightning point of history.” One of best things about that is that he had the good sense and good taste to start collecting art, including work that he commissioned himself. The collection also includes some amazing artifacts from Woodstock, including an official press pass and the only known surviving example of the Woodstock Survival Guide (image at left below shows a portion) that was printed & distributed at the concert. (click the links above to go directly to the catalog entry for the item).
A mini-documentary on Vimeo explains how Jeff Shero Nightbyrd and Abbie Hoffman got involved in the Woodstock festival, providing medical care and other vital logistics for the organizers, who had apparently not conceived of the necessity of such things. It’s also one of the most concise sociological documentaries on Woodstock that I’ve ever seen. An original Woodstock Concert Poster is in the auction, too.
Classic poster art from the Austin music scene includes posters from the Vulcan Gas Company (the original, not the current dance club) and Armadillo World Headquarters, with signed works by Jim Franklin, Bill Narum, Ken Featherston, Danny Garrett, Sam Yeates, Michael Priest, Gilbert Shelton, Guy Juke, Kerry Awn and other Armadillo Art Squad members.
Is it nostalgia, history, culture, or all three? It’s a window into the soul of rock ‘n’ roll and the great movements that rocked the sixties and seventies whose energy we sorely miss today. There’s a rare, limited edition nude of Janis Joplin by Bob Seideman, and a rare handbill for a 1968 Janis Joplin Concert at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio that was cancelled.
Then there are works by Peter Max and the iconic Andy Warhol Banana that became shorthand for Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. There are Willie Nelson posters, and again, several classic pieces by Gilbert Shelton from the Vulcan Gas Company days, several classics by Jim Franklin from the Vulcan and AWHQ.
There’s even, and I find this hard to even mention, a John Wayne chair, for those of you who always wanted to sit in the Duke’s lap, or depending on how you feel about him, sit on his face.
I’ll be posting more on Twitter and Facebook later. I haven’t mentioned the punk posters (sorry, no Skunks posters in this auction), but there are nine works by Frank Kozik, including two Butthole Surfers posters.
many signed San Francisco posters including Moscoso, Mouse & Griffin. And I don’t how I did it, but I waited until last to mention Pablo Picasso. It’s a large print. See the catalog entry here.
Nor have I posted any of the pics I took at Jeff’s house today. I particularly liked all the RAT posters, and woodcuts by a Cuban artist with the last name Jimenez. Follow me on Twitter @Jesse_Sublett.
Again, Burley Auction Gallery will be auctioning off this unique collection starting 10:00 AM Saturday, December 5th at Burley Auction Gallery 134 Deborah Dr., New Braunfels, Tx. 78130. The public is welcome. Preview is Friday December 4th Noon-6:00PM & Saturday 8:00AM-10:00AM auction start.
For more information on the posters and underground art history you can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his cell 318-780-6600. For more information about the auction, contact email@example.com or on his 830-660-3201.